They saw it coming: the mushroom cloud of smoke. Dabney Tompkins and Alan Colley were on their deck enjoying the view when the Stouts Creek Fire broke out earlier this month. They’d read about moments like this — spotting a forest fire from a 40-foot-high tower — but nothing could have prepared them. They weren’t staffing a fire lookout, after all. They were at home.
Treehouse Without the Tree
Tompkins and Colley’s lives changed course on a ferry ride several years ago. Quite literally stumbling upon a book about fire lookouts used by the U.S. Forest Service, they learned how the structures on stilts were used to spot forest fires throughout the 20th century. Now largely replaced by satellites, very few lookouts are still standing.
Tompkins and Colley, who had downsized from their big Dallas estate to 1,400 square feet in Portland, wanted to know more. “It was a magical moment that the book sort of fell off the shelf to us,” Colley recalls. “We called the ranger district and said why don’t we rent this thing? That was the beginning.” The urbanites rented several fire lookouts before …read more